Dental team helps keep the bite in the fight

SOUTHWEST ASIA — While in a deployed environment, the 386th Expeditionary Medical Group dental team treats expeditionary Airmen for a variety of ailments. One lesser-known capability that may surprise some is the dental procedures they perform on our four-legged Airmen.

This capability was recently tested as the dental team, deployed to an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, performed a dental operation on a military working dog.

While taking a break from searching cars at the 407th Air Expeditionary Group’s entry control point, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Bob Magaling, 407th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron MWD hander and his partner, Lizzi, a MWD, decided to play a game of fetch. The fun ended as Lizzi chased a ball that bounced awkwardly – biting full force into a metal grate.

“In my mind I knew it looked bad,” said Magaling, deployed from the 802nd Security Forces Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. “She came back just like she would normally, and when she gave me the ball, I noticed the blood dripping from it.”

Lizzi, a three-year-old Belgian Malinois, chipped one tooth and knocked two others loose. The K9 team knew a dental procedure would be required to remove the teeth.

After coordinating with the local veterinarian here at ‘the Rock,’ Magaling and his leadership contacted the 386th EMDG dental office and arranged to transport Lizzi for her emergency appointment.

“I received the call saying a military working dog had broken a tooth,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Gregory Johnson, 386th EMDG dental technician. “This was the first MWD we worked on this deployment after working on eight my last deployment.”

The dental staff was ready and willing to assist their four legged wingman, as they actually receive K-9-specific education during their training. With the help of the veterinarian, they got to work to extract the teeth and get the furry defender back to the fight.

The vet could have done the procedure himself, but it went faster and smoother with both the vet and dentist working together, said U.S. Air Force Maj. Richard Waddell, 386th EMDG dentist.

“Working on dogs and humans is very similar,” said Waddell. “Dogs have more teeth, and the anatomy is a little different, but I jumped at the call to help a dog.”

From the time Lizzi was sedated to when the procedure was complete, about an hour and a half had come and gone. The procedure was a success, and yielded no complications. The dental team recently visited Lizzi to ensure everything had healed properly.

“I’ve never been able to work on a dog like that before,” said Waddell. “It was a good opportunity that you would only really ever get while deployed.”

It was evident Lizzi recovered fully when she was brought out to play fetch once again and there wasn’t a step of hesitation from her, said Johnson.

“They [MWDs] are very important to the fight,” he added. “To be able to get them back to it is very rewarding for us.”